I saw them in a field while walking on an isolated country road outside my village over three years ago. The first thing I noticed was that their manes and tails were so tangled and full of burrs that they looked "punk" with parts that stuck straight up. Second thing I noticed was that their hooves were in a terrible condition. Clearly these horses were not being cared for properly. I began visiting them regularly, carrying scissors and my dog's grooming brush in my backpack so that I could work out the burrs and tangles. The biggest horse was the friendliest..the other two more timid, and it took a while to gain their confidence.
It also took awhile for me to find out who owned them. My French friends warned me to go very slowly and to use a lot of diplomacy. This is rural France and the locals are suspicious of strangers, especially strangers with an English accent. I would get nowhere if I charged up to their door accusing them of mistreating their horses. It took a year of casually saying hello to people I encountered on my walks, and gradually asking about the horses. A neighbor confided in me that I would be wasting my time to try and talk to the person who owned them. I proceeded with caution and I eventually met and became friendly with the owner's wife as she walked her dog. I said nothing about the horses at first. One day I casually told her how I always passed her husband's horses on my daily walks and that I had fallen in love with them, and that I was a big animal lover. So far so good...she seemed to think it was nice that I visited them.
But then there was a problem. Scipion was in pain and he started limping badly..something had to be done about the hooves. I called some people I knew who worked with horses and asked for their help. They said they would come but that I must get the owner's permission. Finally, I had to approach the owner, who I had still never met. I worked up the courage, worked on a story and I knocked on their door. His wife introduced me and I told him how I had friends who worked on horses and that they owed me a favor; and if he wanted they could come work on Scipion's feet ..for free. I also said that I would love to continue taking care of them, for my own pleasure for free. When I said "for free" his face lit up.
That's how it started. To make a long story short, the owner wants to be rid of the horses now that he is older, and won't spend any money for their care. He liked having them when he was younger, and they also served a purpose as living lawn mowers, so to speak, trimming he many overgrown pastures that he owns. (I am also told there is a tax break if one has grazing animals on the land.) He believes he does well to make sure they have access to grass and water. It seems that he believes they do not require anything more. Hence they have had no training, no veterinary or hoof care, and little attention.
No training means practically wild, so most farriers will not come for hoof maintenance, which he wouldn't pay for even if it was possible. In fact, as he told me, he is getting too old for the effort to keep them fed and watered, and so he has been trying to sell them. He did not seem to understand that no training also means no one would buy them, especially considering the terrible condition of their hooves.
And that's where I come in, this silly American who offers to volunteer to help the horses for free, to make it possible for them to find a new home in order to take them off his hands. It didn't take him long to see how this was to his advantage. It did take awhile for me to convince him that they are not sellable ..that if he wants to be rid of them he will have to be willing to give them away. And so that is how I arrived where I am now, with the future of these horses in my hands.